Image Credit: Southern Oregon University.
With President of SOU Linda Schott’s retirement shortly approaching, the Siskiyou took the time to interview her during this important milestone in her life.
Schott explained that the president of a university is in charge of the entire institution. It’s “their job to make sure the school has enough students, along with securing funds to help fund classes and activities on campus.” Another aspect is to “make sure students are able to make progress towards graduation and make sure they are safe and sound,” she said. “I personally make sure that the health and safety of students is a top priority, especially during the pandemic. Another aspect of the job is working with state legislators and external donors to bring resources to the campus.”
When asked how Schott came to be SOU’s President, she said, “I went through a search process similar to what is going on now. I interviewed back in May of 2016. I had prior education experience which landed me the job.” Before that, she was a history teacher and taught women studies at a variety of schools. Then she moved to administration, then became a dean at the arts humanities and social sciences and then a president. She was also the president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle, a small northern campus in Maine.
Schott decided to become president of SOU because she was excited to work for a new board of trustees, as well as working at a bigger school compared to the one in Maine. “I also like the mission statement of the school, which primarily serves students from the area, and its focus on teaching undergraduate students, which appealed to me as a former teacher.”
The Siskiyou asked her what were some of the accomplishments and struggles she had as President of SOU, to which Schott responded “the creation of a new mission and strategic plan. It took about a year and a half for us to get done and more details are on the SOU President’s page.” As for struggles, the biggest was the pandemic, then the Almeda fires which cost hundreds of employees and students their housing. “It was a tragic event for this region and our employees were incredible for helping the county during this time.” The other big challenge was financial; “while we appreciate the funding we have gotten from the state, it has not been enough and we have had to constantly raise tuition for students.”
After serving as SOU’s President for a little over five years, Schott decided to retire at this time because she found herself having less energy lately. “I think the decision to retire is a personal one. My husband is a little older than I and we have been talking about retiring for some time now. As well since I hope I got the campus through the worst of the pandemic, I figure it’s time.”
Schott’s plans for retiring very restful. “My husband and I are moving to Texas to live on a ranch that my family has owned since the 1880s. Not sure what I will do after relaxing for a while. I want to have a garden, chickens, and travel. I want to pursue some things I couldn’t do as president such as be politically active.”
Looking back, Schott is very satisfied with her time as SOU’s President. “I think we have accomplished a lot. It’s a great campus and people have really pulled together to help us get through the pandemic.” Other things she has been grateful for is seeing the athletic team’s accomplishments and enjoying the shows the performing arts students have put on. “I think the campus is in a good place right now, while we still have some financial issues, there is no infighting among us.”
Siskiyou: How is the selection process going when it comes to finding the next SOU president?
Schott hopes to have next president of the university selected next week and that they can start January 1, 2022. When asked about what kinds of quantities someone needs to have to be president of a university, Schott replied, “You have to have a lot of energy; it’s an intense long-hour job. You have to love education and believe in the power of education. You have to be able to have a lot of empathy to believe and understand where a lot of different groups are coming from. As well as make tough decisions when you have to. Then you have to work well with others such as students and a team.”
The Siskiyou asked Schott if she had any words of advice she would give to the her successor. “Have fun. SOU is a great place to have fun and work hard,” Schott replied.
In her final words of the interview, Schott said, “It’s been my privilege to serve as the president, I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. I just wish the university good things going forward. As for students, don’t give up and persist; getting an education is hard, but so important.”